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Delta Improves Online Award Booking Engine

by on December 29, 2011 · 41 comments

in Delta

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Recently I’ve heard a lot of negative feedback about Delta’s award booking policies and rumors about them cracking down on the number of stopovers and open-jaws you can build into awards.

Every frequent flyer program has their positives and negatives and while Delta does indeed have a lot of negatives (one way awards that cost the same amount as round-trips, buggy online booking engine and three notorious award tiers that can inflate the cost awards to eye-popping levels) they also have some positives like the ability to build in a stopover and open jaw on awards, as I described in this post.

So when I started getting a lot of emails about Delta cracking down on stopovers and open jaws I immediately got concerned. I read through this Flyertalk thread and got in touch with my contacts at Delta who assured me there has been to policy change – the online errors are simply due to fare rules changing that impact the legal routings of awards. Factor in delta.com’s notorious IT issues and it became a full-blown debacle.

I decided to sit down with a big cup of coffee and go head to head with Delta.com to experience these issues for myself. And surprisingly, Delta.com worked better than I’ve ever experienced. Admittedly, its been a couple months since I’ve booked a Delta award, but I was impressed with new features like the ability to book mixed-class itineraries (like flying coach one way and business/first on the return) and the award engine priced each of my itineraries flawlessly. For the Air France legs I used ExpertFlyer to find award availability and then plugged in the segments in the multi-city search.

I ran through a number of different awards – domestic open jaw, domestic stopover, domestic stopover and open jaw, European stopover with transit, African award with European stopovers and co-terminals and Asian mixed class award with a stopover. Each time the awards priced correctly at the low award levels and I was able to put them on hold and ticket.

Additionally, it seems that there are empowered customer service reps at Delta that are able to override the system if you still encounter issues, so it can’t hurt to call if you still encounter errors.

So overall, after spending a couple hours with Delta.com, I’m actually happy with the improvements and glad I just bought 100,000 Skymiles for $1,100 with their recent 100% transfer miles promotion. It means my summer trip to Europe and the Indian Ocean island of Reunion will cost me less than $1,500 – in business class!

Domestic open jaw award

Domestic stopover

Domestic stopover AND open jaw award

European stopover award with overnight transfer

European open jaw award with the open jaw in the continent of the origin

 

Asia award with stopover and mixed classes including a non-Skyteam partner segment (Alaska)

Possibly one of my favorite awards - Africa in business class with a stopover in Europe

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • JohnnieD

    Did you search segment by segment and then use the multicity tab to put it together?? BTW, can I call delta to get Korean award availability YYZ>HKG?

  • Anonymous

    This is a random question that your MIA-CDG-ORL-RUN-etc itinerary raised for me: When you do an airport transfer in a city like NYC, Paris or London, what happens to your checked baggage? Do the airports just have trucks constantly running back and forth with tons of baggage? Or do you have to claim your baggage and get it to the next airport yourself–to then re-check it at the new airport?

  • Sam

    Hi TPG
    I want to book 2 award tickets each in 2 different accounts – same trip from Delta. Can I put the first 2 award tickets on hold until I book the second 2 award tickets? Do I need to call up Delta to book the award tickets on hold or can I do this on the Delta website?
    Great info on Delta booking on the TPG site !!!

  • delta

    i recognized this change about a week ago. delta is finally getting better!

  • silvana

    What will it cost for LAX to SGN and PNH (Cambodia) to LAX in BIZ for December 2012? Do I need to call into Delta?

  • silvana

    Or is it better to book on U.S. Airways for the BIZ as far as fewer points and more availability? When should I start to book for December 2012?

  • Anonymous

    Star alliance carriers to Asia have better business class products in general. It’ll be 120k out of LAX if you stay on skyteam partners like Korean or China Southern. For china southern use expertflyer- for Korean you need to call

  • Anonymous

    Yup, I’ve noticed the delta.com engine getting better for the last couple months maybe. They went through a period where I couldn’t get any routing to work if it had more than two segments on it. Literally, after I selected the third segment, the next page would just never load. That seems to not be happening anymore. And dare I say that I’ve actually been looking at the award calendar more. I can’t say that it actually works yet, but, call me crazy, I think it might actually be working better (which isn’t saying much)…

  • Phil

    I can’t seem to reproduce the ability to mix classes. I want to book rdu-jfk coach same day jfk-lhr biz, then open jaw cdg-yul biz, stopover, then yul-rdu in coach. but in the multi city booking i only see one option for overall class of service, not per segment. how do you mix classes?

  • Aaron

    If you leave the airport, you have to take your bags with you and re-check them at the next airport! Wouldn’t it be great if they would deal with it for you, but honestly if you’re taking a stopover, wouldn’t you want your bags with you?

  • Phil

    oops let me answer myself. when you click through it shows first/biz and coach for each leg… very nice! this is a BIG improvement i have to say. said itin above is 100k each and $713 in total taxes for four of us. good luck getting that on *A or OneWorld! Viva Delta!

  • Anonymous

    Yes, for a stopover you’d want your bags with you. However, in the sample itinerary he shows for MIA-CDG-stopover-ORY-RUN(destination) and return RUN-ORY,CDG-MIA, the ORY/CDG on the return is only a few hour layover–hardly enough time to count as a stopover, considering delays and the actual transfer could easily eat into the entire layover. I’ve seen other itineraries that also require transfers across a city. I believe doing a transfer from Gatwick to Heathrow used to be VERY common for people flying from the US via London to continental Europe because of the now-gone gate restrictions at Heathrow. I also know of people who have done transfers from one of the NYC airports to another because of timing/availability of domestic and international legs. So my question was about those. If I don’t have a true stopover in Paris/NYC/London, but have to change airports because of flight schedule/ticketing rules/etc., can luggage be checked through or can it only be checked to the first airport in the transfer city?

    In fact, I believe that in order for the sample itinerary to Reunion to work as a DL award, it can only have one stopover, so the CDG-ORY or ORY-CDG transfer cannot be longer than a certain time going one of the two directions.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rockferd Rocky Horan

    Korean hard product is great and is skyteam….but otherwise China eastern/southern hard product nearly that great, china airlines is a happy medium. *A at least has Singapore, thai, Asiana and ANA……

  • http://www.facebook.com/rockferd Rocky Horan

    My only question is when is Delta.com going to do what NWA.com allowed. Yo know booking award travel on: Korean, AF, KLM, AS, and mutliple other partners!

  • Noway

    Nice post. Thanks for doing the hard work

  • Anonymous

    I have not found Delta’s award booking engine to ever book a trip with a stopover correctly. One stopover is permitted yet it requires double miles. I use the multi-city selection and am wondering if I am missing something.

  • Bem247

    Skyteam barely acts an alliance. There are so many blackout dates for their Asian partners that its Not even funny. *A partners do not have blackout dates and they seem more like an alliance than Skyeam.

  • Admanco

    i agree with rock below. i ain’t in love with Air France biz class. angled seats. For the longer trips above, i want the flat bed on so many carriers.

  • Jon

    Sam – It is even easier than this. Just put all 4 tickets on the same reservation and hold it. Then call Delta and ask them to ticket two passengers from each of your two accounts. It is very quick and easy for them to do, and once completed they can link the two bookings together so the airline can tell that the four of you are all traveling together.

  • Anne

    This is such a newbie question, I’m embarassed to ask it, but here goes.

    My husband just got two passes in the mail for the AA airport lounge. We’re thrilled. But our next two trips are on other airlines. Do they check/insist that you are using AA before you can enter the lounge?

  • Mikedlk

    I also noticed the recent changes in delta’s award search engine.
    My hope is to include more airlines in the future such as: Alitalia and CSA as AF’s search airline does.
    One question to those expertflyer.com experts, what booking code should I look for award ticket on a KLM operated flight ?
    Thank you!

  • Sam

    Thanks Jon – that answers the question perfectly…

  • http://www.sorehands.com/ Bill Silverstein

    Amen to that. Not only that, forget trying to get Skymiles on any of the Skyteam partners given all the restrictions on classes.

  • john

    Truly seems to be fixed. I tried changing an award two weeks ago and they wanted an additional 45K miles just to change one flight from Y to F. Today they could do it for the same number of miles.

  • redtailshark

    As Jeff R used to say, Delta and its product is *best in class* The functionality of DL.COM remains a total bad joke compared with most OAL websites. Why do people make so many excuses for its total failure to deliver an acceptable customer experience? Like waiting months for this OJ/stopover pricing “bug” to be fixed and then celebrating its temporary return to a better condition that OALs regard as normal? Or award mileage demands that correspond to no published tiers in the already-gouging “THREE” tier scheme, but are multiples thereof? Or the price increases, the “turbulence,” the “sorry, this fare sold out” bs and so on. If a vendor of iPods handled their business portal with this flagrant dishonesty, multiple SAGs would be on their case for bait and switch. The DL censorship drive is strong and they have many apologists but the facts show indubitably that:
    a. DL DriLls you.
    b. SM is a ScaM.
    c. They were, are, and will remain….. * BEST IN CLASS*

  • Lwestbirch

    Be cautious of Delta’s “Hold Itinerary”! I put one on hold and then found another similar one but the dates for each leg were three days earlier..I then put the second one on hold until I could discuss the options with my wife. A few hours later(still in the first 24 hours of the two day hold period), I tried to bring up the first one that I held but it was no longer available! Delta may only let you hold one “similar” itinerary. I called Delta and was told this was policy…had to talk to a CR in SkyMiles and she was able to recover my first one (whew) but be careful…there are no popups or red warnings alerting you!

  • Mmt

    Delta seems to be charging the same taxes as AF/KL FlyingBlue on transatlantic now. I just booked a 100,000 first class rt KBP-ORD (begins in europe) for $500 taxes.

  • san91776

    where’s the improvment? I’ve been trying to bk rt lax-cdg or lax-lhr for the past two wks. no matter now many times i tried to click on “low mile” award box, it bounce back mid awd miles. I called 4 times to skymile dep. they are super nice and each time spent more thank 10min helping me to find out where’s wrong. so far no luck. they also tried on parters airlines such as AF and KLM, low ml bk bounce back mid mile number. anyone run into same issues like me?

  • Anonymous

    They’ve always assessed large surcharges on travel beginning in Europe — and I guess it makes sense that it aligns with Flying Blue. That same trip except ORD-KBP should still be assessed far lower taxes/fees/surcharges, IIRC.

  • Jeff

    Hi Autolycus25,

    Correct me if I’m wrong – but your question “…However, in the sample itinerary he shows for MIA-CDG-stopover-ORY-RUN(destination) and return RUN-ORY,CDG-MIA, the ORY/CDG on the return is only a few hour layover–hardly enough time to count as a stopover…” If you actually look at the dates, the sample fare gets to ORY on 7/21 @ 6:25am and depart from CDG next day on 7/22 @ 10:55am, so this is more than 24 hrs, so a stopover.

    Which is my question, how can this sample fare work if he already has:

    1. open jaw on the return leg on 7/13 returning from ORY
    2. stopover at RUN 7/13-7/21
    3. another stopover 7/21 – 7/22

    I thought Delta only allows ONE stopover and ONE openjaw?

    Any comments?

    Jeff

  • Anonymous

    That happens on *A too! Booking codeshare flights with AC on SQ or LH metal and you have absolutely no idea which fare class you’ve booked on the OPERATING carrier, the only thing that matters when attempting to figure out whether or not you earn miles and if so, how many. :(

  • Aasdfsd

    Awesome! That is really good news that it is fixed!!!

  • Anonymous

    Like many of my fellow Miamians I am becoming concerned that the weather is effecting your judgment. Drive much here? Delta is evil and any attention to the few remaining tricks of skymiles will most certainly get them on the next “kill list.”
    Oh and if your are joining the 24hr party life that is Miami ( for at least for the people who haven’t lived here their whole lives) remember to practice safe sex.

  • Anonymous

    The RUN-ORY flight is a “redeye”. It leaves Reunion Island at 9:25 PM on 7/21 and arrives at Paris-Orly at 6:25AM the following morning. The flight CDG-MIA leaves at 10:55 the same morning. The return has a layover of 4 1/2 hours but also includes the ORY-CDG airport transfer.

  • Anonymous

    I agree- I would LOVE the ability to check Korean avail

  • Cjseinpa

    I’m still having trouble with the booking engine, working on a South America Trip. To Santiago, the first class “low” level appears (50,000 one way) and I click on it. Same for the return. MSP-SCL-MSP. But after I select the flights, it shows up as 200,000 miles instead of 100,000. Suggestions?

  • DenverTraveler

    I disagree completely, and am wondering if maybe Delta compensated you for writing this post…

    I’ve just spent the past hour trying to find flights to Brazil in June. There is no low availability and sky high prices on any dates.

  • Anonymous

    I never said low level availability was better- only that the engine works better. It’s very possible there are no low level awards for the flight you are looking for.

    Delta did not pay me to write this post. You are probably just searching incorrectly- I’ve written many posts on how to finesse the engine to find low level, like searching leg by leg

  • n00b_flyer

    Thank you so much for this post! I was a bit confused regarding how to book an open jaw award, but you explained it perfectly! I will now stop referring to my skymiles as skypesos.

  • Pingback: Sunday Reader Question: Trouble Booking Delta Award Tickets | The Points Guy()

  • http://about.me/cblack Carl Black

    Thank you for this thread! I was trying to plan a trip with two stopovers and couldn’t figure out how to make it work without using double miles. Now I see that it can work perfectly with one stopover and one open jaw.

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